Human maxillary sinus size, shape, and surface area: Implications for structural and functional hypotheses

Suhhyun Kim, Lyndee A. Ward, Lauren N. Butaric, Scott D. Maddux

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Objectives: Although research into human maxillary sinus (MS) morphology has overwhelmingly focused on sinus volume, other aspects of morphology (e.g., overall shape, mucosal surface area) factor prominently in hypotheses regarding MS form and function. Here, we investigate MS volume in conjunction with measures of MS shape and surface area in a large, diverse sample of modern humans. We test whether variation in MS volume is associated with predictable changes in MS shape (i.e., allometry) and investigate the influence of MS size-shape scaling on mucosal surface area dynamics. Materials and Methods: Measures of MS volume and surface area were obtained from computed tomographic (CT) scans of 162 modern human crania from three ancestral backgrounds—Equatorial Africa, Europe, and East Asia. 3D coordinate landmarks and linear measurements were also collected. Multivariate analyses were employed to test for associations between MS volume and other morphological variables. Results: Significant associations between MS volume and 3D shape were identified both across and within the subsamples. Variation in MS volume was found to predominantly relate to differences in MS height and width dimensions relative to MS length. This pattern of allometric scaling was found to differentially influence total mucosal surface area and the SAV ratio. Conclusion: This study suggests that variation in MS volume is disproportionately mediated by MS width and height dimensions. This finding has implications for hypotheses which structurally link MS morphology to craniofacial ontogeny and those which suggest that MS morphology may perform adaptive physiological functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)640-654
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Biological Anthropology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2022


  • allometry
  • paranasal
  • pneumatization
  • scaling
  • sinus function


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